G4's hands on preview impressions from PAX:
What We Know:
Do I really even need to fill out this section? Duke Nukem Forever was in development for nearly 12 years, and then it famously flamed out. It became one of the most famous pieces of vaporware in history. In fact, if defined that term. People thought this would never see the light of day. Disgruntled former employees leaked screenshots, models, footage, and everything but the full source code for the game. This was the story that game developer parents tell their wannabe game developer kids to keep that out of the industry.
What We're Seeing Now:
Well, that's all a thing of the past. Duke Nukem Forever is real, and it's coming from developer Gearbox Software and being published by 2K games. We sat through a brief presentation with Gearbox's Randy Pitchford this morning, where he told us how excited he was to announce this. Gearbox has been doing well financially recently, and they were in a position to save this game.
Even though it was a monumental task to assemble everyone, and he was told it was impossible more than once .. it actually happened. "It was unfinished business," said Pitchford, "We have to see this through." After an over the top trailer (would you expect anything else from Duke?) we got to pick up the controls (it was being shown on Xbox 360s, and possibly a few PCs with Xbox 360 Windows Controllers.
Some highlights from the trailer:
* According to the narrator, Duke had become a hero, but then disappeared. The aliens returned and started tearing the place apart. But then they made one mistake, "They shouldn't have gone after our women."
* Duke, "What, did you think I was gone forever?"
* Duke, on seeing a gigantic, triple breasted demon-spawn creature thing: "Hell, I'd still hit it."
* There are vehicles in the game, including a truck emblazoned with Duke's radiation logo.
* Weapons galore, of course.
* Lots and lots of bare boobs.
We jumped right inside where ... you're looking straight down into a urinal. Pull the right trigger to, well ... piss, and Duke says "It's time to quit pissing around," he says. Level 1 is entitled "Duke Lives," and you start right there at the urinal in the locker room of the Detonators, a professional football team. There's an advance team of soldiers inside, planning out "Operation Cock Block" on a whiteboard, because apparently there's a huge monster outside.
After they finish their attack plan "Which is basically, 'go get him'", you're able to run into the corridor outside, or do a little exploring. I found that you could actually go to the whiteboard and pick up different colored markers to design your own piece of art. Who figured there would be an artistic section to the game? When I finally backed away from the board, one of the soldiers in the room appraised my battle schematic and said "If we had done that, that guy would still have his arm. And at least one of his balls." Nice.
That's about the tone of the entire game, which is exactly what you'd want and expect from this sequel. You head down the hallway with the soldiers, and then ka-blammo, a good chunk of them are taken out by an enormous Cycloid with spinning blade hands outside on the field. Running through the rest of the level, you run through corridors and hallways in the sports facility armed only with your fists. There are a couple of small aliens inside, which you can punch down, or just wait for the remaining soldiers to take them out, and then you'll grab a Devastator from one of them.
Heading out onto the field, it's pouring down rain, and your goal is to take down that Cycloid. It's a fairly easy battle if you keep your distance and watch for the Cycloid's charged ramjet attack. You'll run out of ammo before you can beat him, but a dropship will cycle overhead and drop more as you need it. When you finally fell the big guy, you get to kick his eyeball through the uprights, field goal style. It's good!
Then things take an unexpected left turn. There's a pullback, and you're watching the credits for the game on a bigscreen TV in a bachelor pad. Duke's moans indicate that he's enjoying ... something just below screen. His hand comes up with a Duke Nukem-themed controller in it (the buttons spell out "D U K E," and then two girls' heads appear. "What about the game, Duke? Was it any good?" one of them asks. "Yeah," Duke responds, "But after 12 f*ckin' years, it should be."
We then skipped forward to Level 15: Highway Battle. Duke is tucked into his Truck (which it looks like might be called "Ego'), and you get to drive through a canyon level, hitting A to turbo boost, B to turn tight, and X to flip your vehicle if you land on your side or upside down. You can run down baddies in satisfying splats, although eventually, after a huge jump, you'll run out of gas.
That's when you hop out of the truck, and armed only with a handgun with a laser sight, you take on the tusked, humanoid/pig hybrids. You'll find other weapons in this level. During out brief time, we found a Railgun with a scope, a shotgun with dual grips, the Ripper triple-barreled chaingun, and a shrink ray. Shrinking your enemies down allows you to easily turn them into pulp with your boots, although if you leave them alone, they'll eventually turn back to full-size. Then, before we progressed any further, the demo was over. Sadly.
How does it look? Pretty darn good. It's not going to redefine genres or anything, but it definitely looks like a Triple A title from this generation. It plays equally as well, with traditional FPS controls (although you can hit left on the d-pad to drink a beer, which unfortunately didn't work for us. Maybe you need to find beers first), that felt responsive and satisfying. You're pretty much killing everything possible in this game, which is what we did in the demo, and it feels like a worthy successor to the Duke Nukem legacy.
Especially when you hear Duke quip things like "My balls, your face." Perfect. That's what I want out of this. We'll have more for you soon, so stay tuned. The game doesn't have an official release date yet (surprise!), but Gearbox has confirmed that it will be released sometime in 2011.